In a setback to Karnataka’s Reddy brothers — two of them state ministers — the Supreme Court on Monday stayed their mining operations in Andhra Pradesh.
A bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan advised Tourism Minister Janardhana Reddy, Revenue Minister Karunakara Reddy and former Bellary mayor Somashekhar Reddy to “come clean” on their alleged illegal activities and ordered a probe into allegations of encroachment by their Obulapuram Mining Corporation (OMC) in reserve forest areas of Andhra and Karnataka.
The brothers will be allowed to present their view to the probe panel, headed by the Survey of India, which is to submit a report within two weeks.
Till then, the OMC can’t carry out any mining activity.
The court was acting on a petition by the Andhra government challenging a February 26 verdict of the high court setting aside its order canceling OMC's mining lease. It alleged OMC had violated lease conditions by extending its mining area - spread across 136 hectares in Anantapur district - by removing pillars that formed the boundary for the leased area.
The government issued prohibition orders on the recommendation of the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee.
The court directed the brothers to file a response. To the contention of their counsel, Mukul Rohatgi, that this was an orchestrated defamation campaign, it said: “You should have offered yourself to such an inquiry and come clean.”
Rohatgi also opposed an inquiry by an external agency, saying the Andhra mines Act required the state to order an inquiry by its own officials. To this, the bench said: “If you have any objections with regard to a particular official, he won’t be part of the committee.”